Updated: Aug 12, 2020
Every mama has their own unique experience with breastfeeding. It is such a beautiful way to bond with our babies, and richly nourish them with many antibodies to build stronger immune systems. In as much as breastfeeding is so rewarding, it can also be messy, painful, and exhausting—basically one of the hardest things we will ever do as mamas. Breastfeeding presents many challenges and one of them is keeping milk supply up. This is what I personally struggled with the most.
Breast milk supply is affected by various factors such as diet, hormonal fluctuations, taking certain medications and mental health. In my case, it was a combination of hormonal fluctuations, diet and state of mind (postpartum anxiety).
My midwives understood my goal was to exclusively breastfeed, so along with practicing kangaroo care, they gave me a few other options to try to increase my milk supply. They recommended taking herbal supplements (Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle), and eating lots of oatmeal! If this didn’t work, they said the last resort would be taking pharmaceutical drugs, such as Domperidone (intended to treat gastrointestinal issues, but as a side effect, it increases lactation in nursing mothers).
For a moment, I felt relieved knowing there were so many options available to me, including having access to Domperidone. However, I went home that day from my appointment and I researched all of my options that could increase my milk supply. Upon conducting research, I found that the pharmaceutical drugs, which are prescribed to increase lactation, come with many side effects like depression. As a new mom, with hormones already out of whack after giving birth, I didn’t need the added risk of going into a depressive state. It felt only natural to choose the herbal route.
After incorporating the herbal supplements and oatmeal into my diet, I did notice an increase in my milk supply, however, I still had to supplement with formula after each feeding. I wasn’t so thrilled at first about having to supplement with formula, but I quickly came to terms with it, and realized this was the best I could do for my daughter in our unique circumstance. I think a lot of us mamas have a difficult time letting go of the attachment to our vision of effortlessly breastfeeding, but once we do, we are able to embrace the present situation.
It is my hope that if breast feeding is important to you, and if you are facing challenges with milk supply, that some of these tips may be of help, whether you go the pharmaceutical route, the natural route, or a compromise between formula feeding and breastfeeding route (consult with your midwife/OB, though!). Most importantly, do what works best for you and your little one!